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Archive for September, 2011

Thieves Love Smartphones

September 29, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Law enforcement calls it “Apple picking”. It’s really just a new kind of snatch and dash, but smartphone thievery boosted overall year-over-year theft statistics for the Chicago Transit Authority by 23% in June 2011. And it’s not just happening in Chicago. Many other urban centers are on the same trend line.

In New York City, transit police are currently conducting undercover operations to discourage device theft on the subways. The plain clothes officers travel the rails, with up to 200 undercover police patrolling at any given time. The NYPD knows the score. Pickpockets love smartphones. In London, the transit authority has issued this warning to tube riders. “Treat your iPhone like a 100 pound note, because that is what a thief sees when you use it in public.” Over the last year there, thieves have become increasingly brazen. Daylight robberies have become routine, where devices are snatched right out of callers’ hands, even while conversations are in progress.

This sort of crime is a triple threat to mobile business workers. First, it deprives them of tools, data, and communications necessary to do their work; second, it must be assumed that whether the theft was targeted or not, the business data on the phone may be subject compromised; and third, these devices are not cheap.

Companies need to be prepared for device theft and loss because it’s going to happen. Here are some things you can do:

· Data encryption should be routine for all business data that resides on the phone for any amount of time. If workers keep sensitive personal data on the phone as well, things like personal identification information, credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, or any other kind of sensitive information, they would be wise to encrypt all this data. Businesses can and should mandate this for their workers. Of course they will need a security management platform and consistent security policies and practices to enforce it.

· Access to all business functions should be password protected.

· Maintain 24/7 availability of mobile application management facilities for remote device wipe and remote lockdown. Employees need to be encouraged to contact a company hot line right away if they suspect their phone is lost or stolen. Reward them for this action. Delays can be costly. Companies should also have rules for automatic data fading in place in case a user does not know right away that their phone has been stolen.

· Particularly in a “bring your own device” (BYOD) company, workers should be encouraged to get theft insurance, to be aware of its provisions for device replacement, and to carry contact information for the insurer in a place that is separate from both phone and wallet.

· Several carriers and phone vendors provide services for tracking stolen devices. Again, device users should carry contact information for these services in a place separate from wallet and phone. To have a chance of locating a device, it is very important to contact the locator service as quickly as possible. Thieves may be savvy enough to ditch the SIM card.

Educate mobile business users about the risks of losing a device and best practices for keeping data secure. It helps to have a “culture of security” in which the company has clear security policies, a platform the enables and enforces best practices, and users who know what to do if the worst happens.

Do Mobile Devices Matter?

September 20, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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We who are in the corporate IT management business grew up in a hardware centric world. In that world you worked at your desk or workstation. You had cool computers. Everybody gushed over faster processors, scads of RAM, and ever bigger, higher resolution displays.

Nowadays nobody cares about PCs any more. Even Mark Dean, an engineer who was on the design team of the original IBM PC, recently spoke an epitaph for the venerable PC, saying, “While PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing. They’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.”

Of course now we talk about other things. We gush over our tablets and cool smartphones with high resolution displays, dual core processors, and gigabytes of RAM.

Sound familiar?

And while we are talking about these things, companies are still stymied by the task of managing them. Some commentators are even saying the devices don’t matter at all, it’s the data that counts, and the keys to the data are mobile applications. We should ignore devices altogether and focus on applications. You can’t manage all those devices anyway. Maybe they are right. Recently there was a story about some hackers who used ordinary texting software to unlock cars, start engines and sniff GPS databases. GPS information yielded a time-stamped tracking record for the vehicle’s travels.

If companies are wrestling with device management today and can barely imagine where their information assets might reside tomorrow, should they be thinking about devices at all? Do the devices even matter?

According to a recent study by IDC, apparently devices still matter. It pointed out a couple of very interesting facts. One is that in a large survey of 2500 information workers and 550 IT administrators, the IT admins said that 6% of their workers were using tablets at work. However 13% of the information workers said they used tablets at work. That’s a pretty healthy disconnect for you. The study also found that although mobility has proven productivity benefits for workers and significant marketing value for customers, 76% of the IT departments said they had no plans to mobilize internal apps over the next 12 months, and 89% had no plans to create mobile versions of their customer facing web apps. Why this reluctance to mobilize? The number one issue is security.

Clearly right now device insecurity is having a real impact on the way companies are moving forward (or not) with mobility. Fortunately there are application development and distribution techniques that protect data. There are also readily available device and application management platforms and best practices that will very secure mobility environments. Working in an integrated app development and management environment (with SUP 2.0 and Afaria for instance) enables companies to build a highly secure mobility strategy.

Top 2 Hybrid App Management Scenarios

September 15, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Continuing the Hybrid container application development conversation, let’s consider application management. Hybrid applications are also easier to install on workers phones. Consider these application management scenarios:

First, let us say your company has developed a mobile travel approval application you want all employees to use. This application will streamline and accelerate travel approvals, enabling travelers to make arrangements earlier and reduce their spending on last-minute bookings. Your company permits users to bring their own phones to work, though you limit them to a list of approved devices that covers four different mobile operating systems.

The native application approach would be to build four versions of this application – one for each supported mobile operating system. When it comes time to deploy the application, it is necessary to interrogate each device to see which operating system it is running, and then install the appropriate version of the travel approval app.

Using a hybrid application strategy, you would build the travel approval application once. It would be the same for all devices. When it is time to deploy the application, you would provision it over the air to all company employees and it would immediately become a functioning app on their devices.

Note that company enabled devices would already have containers installed. This would likely happen when the phone was initially enabled for business use. For instance part of the “business enablement” process might include installing a basic company app like email or a company directory. That app would include a device specific container. Once the container is installed, that device will run other company developed hybrid apps that are installed over the air by IT management or downloaded from the company app store.

Second, let’s say your company has set up an app store where employees can download business applications. The process for downloading a hybrid application would be simpler.

When workers go to the app store to download a native app, they will encounter a step requiring them to indicate the type of device they are using, or to select the device specific version of the application they are looking for. Once the application installs, they may need to do some device specific configuration. If they select the wrong download, the application will not work.
With a hybrid application on the other hand, workers would simply go to the app store and select the application they want. The application will download and run every time.

Using container dependent hybrid applications makes it easier to segregate business and personal use functions on a dual-use device. That is a valuable capability at a time when employees are increasingly bringing their own devices into the work place.
Hybrid applications also provide an inherent layer of security. The hybrid applications only work in a compatible container. If by chance someone had access to the web app component of a hybrid app from our company, unless their mobile device was enabled for use in your company and had a device specific container installed on it, the web app component would not function.

There is great business value in simplifying mobile application deployments. To get the most out of a hybrid application strategy, applications should be built on a mobile application development platform that enables you to easily customize containers for the devices and data sources your organization uses. That way you not only have containers that are custom fitted to your operational environment, but you can create a standard container architecture that makes hybrid apps easy to build and deploy. Hybrid applications are also easier to update so that you can quickly change or adjust software driven business operations.

In this kind of mobile business environment, workers see new functions and applications appear on their devices, ready to run. Also, the task of worker initiated downloads and configuring a new application becomes much easier. This reduces the load on tech support, and it increases the adoption rate of new applications designed to make business operations more efficient and workers more productive.

Simplifying Mobile App Provisioning with Hybrid Applications

September 8, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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The days when mobile email was the app and a BlackBerry was the device are long gone. A mobility revolution has brought a world of new device types and applications into the workplace. Workers now take for granted mobile capabilities that were totally unavailable to them just a few years ago.

This new age of business mobility has presented challenges for companies whose workers rely on mobility to do their jobs. For one thing, there’s a much greater variety of smartphones and other devices like tablets in the workplace. Even as companies are realizing the value of allowing their workers to bring their own devices to work, and as they develop policies to secure company data in this kind of environment, they are faced with an even greater challenge: managing a rapidly growing portfolio of mobile applications.

There was a time when the cost of building mobile applications for enterprise-wide use limited their development and deployment. However that is changing. Workers are downloading low cost applications for their own use. Independent software vendors are marketing high functionality mobile business applications. Companies are deploying mobile application platforms that significantly lower the cost of building, their own portfolios of proprietary mobile apps.

Amidst this proliferation of mobile applications and devices, companies are wrestling with the various versions of applications they must create to support they different devices allow at work. They are exploring ways to more efficiently manage and deploy growing numbers of mobile applications. Many companies are adopting an application management platform that supports the “company app store” model as well as other capabilities like dynamic device interrogation, which provides visibility into devices being used in the business.

There is a new approach to mobile application development that is likely to cause an even greater proliferation in the numbers of business applications. This is the use of hybrid web applications for business mobility. Hybrid application cost less to build while providing the same performance capability as native apps, and in many ways, they are easier to manage.

Hybrid applications are web apps running inside native application containers that are installed on mobile devices.

The native application containers are specific to device types. This means they are able to access and control all the device specific features like memory, camera and GPS, and other features in the same way a native application would that is designed just for that device and mobile operating system. Containers can also be set up to access back-end data stored in server or cloud based corporate databases.

The hybrid application’s business logic is built into a generic web app using HTML5 and JavaScript. Being a web app, this application is the same for all devices. When it is accessed through a mobile device’s browser, it runs in the container installed on that device. The container executes the hybrid app’s functions as if it were a native app built specifically for that device.

One great advantage of this approach to building mobile applications is that it lowers the cost of application development. Instead of creating different versions of every application to support all the different device types that need to run it, the application is built once. It will then install and run on any company device that is enabled, with a container, for business use. This is one advantage, and as always there is more to come.

How Hybrid Apps Simplify App Development and Maintenance

September 1, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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As promised here is more to think about and apply to the cost of building and maintaining mobile apps!
There has been a lot of interest recently in building browser based web applications as mobile business apps. This approach would greatly simplify mobile application development. Any smartphone or tablet that can browse the internet would be able to run a web app. This means it would only be necessary to build and maintain one version of these applications.

Although this approach works for simple applications, mobile applications built this way have a number of limitations, including:
• Web applications have no direct access to device specific hardware. This limits theretheir ability to use device specific features like cameras and GPS, and it also gives developers less control over how data is handled on the devices, which could lead to security issues. Also, web applications have limited ability to process large data volumes.
• Web applications do not provide any control over which devices are connecting to the enterprise’s web server.
• With web applications, end users must self-provision apps & bookmark links. It is not possible to send one app to all device users at one time. It is also not possible to use push messaging to distribute notifications and content to employees.
• It is not possible to customize the look and feel of HTML web pages for different devices; each page needs to be changed individually for this to occur.
• Web applications are slower than native apps, which makes it more difficult to give the “on device” application user experience.

There is, however, a different approach to web applications which gives them all the performance advantages of native apps while retaining the development and maintenance advantages of web applications. This involves the use of a native app “container” which becomes the environment in which a web app runs on the mobile device. These are called hybrid applications.

A web app container is a native application designed to process generic function calls from a web application. The container itself has device specific hardware controls and hooks to back end corporate databases. Each mobile device type supported by the company would have its own version of a container, which would be installed on the device when it is enabled for business use. Web apps operate within the containers so that the same generic function calls would work appropriately on the different mobile devices. For instance a web app that called for a GPS function would work the same on an Android, iPhone, or Blackberry once those devices had containers installed on them.

Hybrid applications offer a tremendous opportunity to lower the cost of mobile application development and maintenance. This is another piece of the cost of mobile apps conversation. There is more to come.